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From the Inside Out

Old Fashioned Folk Fry with Hot Tuna

By Published: February 8, 2005

The band played a set list completely different from the 1992 recording, and this 2004 reissue makes available previously unreleased versions of "Trial by Fire," "Too Many Years," "Walkin' Blues" and the set-ending "Folsom Prison Blues" (Johnny Cash).

Kaukonen's rhythmic and harmonic resolution in the opening "Hesitation Blues" sounds very much like ragtime, a mood reinforced by the Jelly Roll Morton song, "Dime For Beer," which immediately follows, this time with Casady's bass sort of playing the "piano left hand." Casady's one-note lines in "99 Year Blues" suggest the tuba part in a Dixieland band until his rare solo turn, an impeccable and vibrant mix of up-tempo rock and walkin' blues.

This joyous romp through "San Francisco Bay Blues" (Jesse Fuller) sounds like ragtime, too. It also sounds like a solo Jorma jaunt, but it isn't — Kaukonen plays so telepathically with Casady that it only SOUNDS like they're sharing a single pair of hands.

"Death Don't Have No Mercy," another Rev. Gary Davis song, is about as bluesy a spiritual song, or as spiritual a blues song, as you are likely to hear.

Well-conceived covers abound: "Blue Moon of Kentucky" (Bill Monroe) countrified by pedal steel and squeeze box; folk entrepreneur Happy Traum resurrects Woody Guthrie's dustbowl blues "Ain't Got No Home"; and Weir returns to slyly roughhouse with "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" (Sonny Boy Williamson), smeared with electric guitar and boogie piano like painted on lipstick.

Its last three tunes rampage Two to its conclusion: "AK-47" unleashes screaming electric guitar blues, Jorma shredding molten chords and lead lines into shiny, sharp metallic shards. Corssanon's honkin' sax busts "Folsom" down into a country hootenanny. Between these two, "Parchman Farm" (variously credited to Bukka White or Mose Allison) simply hammers out its no-frills blues riff until it assumes almost irresistible hypnotic power. It scrambles like a prison break through a freeform middle passage until piano, bass, and guitar reconvene the chords to bring the prisoners back in formation. Hard, for real, blues.

Jack Casady
Dream Factor

Fans who wish to hear more of Casady or from Jorma's electric might also explore this first (and so far only) solo record by Casady, a mix of country harmonies and rock rhythms released in 2003.

Bass players almost always need plenty of guests to round out their solo records, and Casady proves no exception. Jorma sits in on acoustic lead with Paul Barere (Little Feat) on acoustic rhythm in the plaintive "Listen to the Wind." Barere also carves up the opening rocker "Paradise" with razor-sharp slide guitar leads.

In "(The Week I Spent a Month in) Sweden," Kaukonen spits out electric guitar leads from the left channel in a duel with guitarist Warren Haynes (Gov't Mule) who seethes out of the right. Psychedelic and white-hot, this is Jorma's classic electric blues-rock sound.

Haynes proves the real guitar star of this set through his raveup in the six-minute instrumental "Outside," rock-jazz that springs to life from Casady's fleet, thumping fingers, Jeff Beck fusion style. "Daddy's Li'l Girl" thunders with echoes of the classic rock power trio Cream — bass doubling the guitar as it scalds a blues scale — featuring seminal blues-rock bassist Jack Bruce, a powerful player to whom Casady is often compared.

Hot Tuna
Live in Japan

Recorded in January 1997 and originally released in 1998, Japan adds drummer Harvey Sorgen to the Jorma, Casady, Sears and Falzarano team — sort of.

As Jorma recalls in his liner notes: "The venue was so small that they had to remove the window behind the stage so the band could climb through it. You can't make this stuff up. The stage was so tiny that Harvey Sorgen, the drummer, played a cardboard box instead of his kit."

Kaukonen roars in fine singing voice, carving roughhewn vocals against hard blues guitar, dancing through a solo made from equal parts of blues and bluegrass, in the opening "Walkin' Blues" (Robert Johnson).

The previously unreleased version of "Parchman Farm" that follows is just about the best thing from any of these sets: Soulful southern organ doubling the blues riff drives home the sweet country tang of Booker T. & The MGs' "Green Onions," then the band rages like a tempest through the psychedelic middle passage until those tangy chords reconvene the congregation on the blues melody. Jorma's vocal roars like an old blues lion with at least one more good fight left in him.

Japan offers many other first-rate acoustic guitar blues and spirituals: Fuller's ragtime "San Francisco Bay Blues," the surprisingly on-topic and timely traditional "Uncle Sam Blues" (with lyrics like, "Uncle Sam ain't a woman/ But he sure can take your man..."), Jorma's "True Religion" (one more great, gruff blues vocal) and "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning" (another Rev. Davis spiritual). This set's hootenanny comes courtesy of "Let Us Get Together."

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